Chef Joanne Chang: Making Life Sweeter

Posted by Patrick Maness +

With some folks, you wonder how they do it all in a 24-hour day. Chef Joanne Chang is one of those people. She is Chef-Owner of Flour Bakery + Cafe, which has four locations throughout the neighborhoods of Boston, MA, and Cambridge, MA. There’s Myers + Chang, an Asian restaurant she co-owns with her husband, Christopher Myers, also located in Boston. She’s written two cookbooks, and has another one coming out in April 2015. She’s ran the Boston Marathon 15 times. And did we mention that she graduated with degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Harvard? She’s kind of a superhero.

The Backstory
The story goes like this: Chang walked away from a cushy and lucrative management consulting job to pursue her passion for baking. “I was very young with few financial obligations and I knew that if I was ever going to try following my passion, that moment was the time. I saved my money for two years and had a year buffer in case things didn't go well,” she said.

Asking for the Job
She boldly reached out to some of the best Chefs in Boston and asked for a job. Except for a small side business selling sweets to Harvard students, Chang had very little experience. But Chef Lydia Shire took a chance on her, and she became garde-manger cook at Boston's renowned Biba restaurant.

Later, she was hired by Chef Jody Adams as Pastry Chef at Rialto restaurant in Cambridge, MA. “I feel pretty fortunate in that I've worked for a lot of strong women in this industry like Lydia Shire, Jody Adams and Susan Regis, and I've never let my gender or race get in the way,” she said.

After a few years working at some of the finest bakeries in Manhattan, Chef Chang came back to Boston to work as Pastry Chef at Mistral restaurant, where she met her husband, Christopher Myers. “My husband Christopher has taught me to never accept ‘okay’ as okay. He helps me see how we can always improve and make ourselves and our businesses better,” said Chang.

The Introduction of Flour
In 2000, she opened Flour Bakery + Café, in Boston. Flour features breakfast pastries, desserts, breads, as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads. The restaurant has gained national attention and has been featured in magazines like Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and The New York Times, among others. She’s written articles for Fine Cooking magazine, as well as teaching baking classes in the Boston area. Chang is no stranger to television, either. She recently won Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” with her award-winning sticky buns.

Building a Great Team
A big part of her success is building and growing a team of people who support and share in her vision for the restaurants. “I've really learned that if you surround yourself with the right people, it's actually really fun and rewarding to give them ownership of ideas and projects that make you better,” she said. “You can't do it without awesome people by your side. I make sure our people know how important they are to the overall mission and vision of Flour and Myers + Chang.”

Although it can be challenging to train people to become great managers, it’s all worth it in the end. “Always build a strong team around you that is clear on your vision and believes in what you are trying to achieve,” she said.

The motto at Flour bakery is, “Make Life Sweeter…Eat Dessert First.” Chang seems to be living that motto and inspiring her staff with her positive energy and the desire to “make people happy with our food,” said Chang.
Headshot Credit: Kristin Teig

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